Friday 21 September 2018

Poisoned spy Skripal 'no longer critical and is improving rapidly'

A file image of Sergei Skripal in a Moscow courtroom in 2006. Photo: Getty Images
A file image of Sergei Skripal in a Moscow courtroom in 2006. Photo: Getty Images

Jack Maidment

Former double agent Sergei Skripal, who was poisoned in the English city of Salisbury, is no longer in a critical condition and is "improving rapidly", according to his doctors.

The ex-Russian military intelligence officer has been in hospital for more than a month after he was apparently exposed to a weapons-grade nerve agent, along with his daughter, Yulia.

She was also exposed to the poison which has been identified as belonging to the Novichok family.

Doctors reported last week that her condition had improved and that she is now stable.

On Thursday, Ms Skripal spoke for the first time since the poisonings and said her father was "sleeping", raising hopes that both may recover and give investigators vital clues about how and why they were targeted.

In a major development yesterday, doctors at Salisbury District Hospital announced that Mr Skripal's condition had improved significantly and that he was "responding well to treatment".

The British government has blamed Russia for the spy attack, but Moscow has denied all accusations of wrongdoing.

Dr Christine Blanshard, medical director at Salisbury District Hospital, said: "Following intense media coverage yesterday, I would like to take the opportunity to update you on the condition of the two remaining patients being treated at Salisbury District Hospital.

"Last Thursday, I informed you that Yulia Skripal's condition had improved to stable. As Yulia herself says, her strength is growing daily and she can look forward to the day when she is well enough to leave the hospital.

"Any speculation on when that date will be is just that - speculation.

"In the meantime, Yulia has asked for privacy while she continues to get better - something I'd like to urge the media to respect.

"I also want to update you on the condition of her father, Sergei Skripal. He is responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition.

"As you will appreciate, I won't be giving any further updates at this time."

The Russian Embassy in the UK described the development as "good news".

Police believe that Mr Skripal (66) and Ms Skripal (33) first came into contact with the Novichok agent at his Salisbury home.

They were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury on March 4.

The Salisbury spy attack sparked a major deterioration in relations between the UK and Russia with both expelling diplomats and engaging in a war of words. British Prime Minister Theresa May has been bolstered in her response to the incident by the support of the UK's international allies who have rowed in behind Britain and backed her claim of Russian culpability.

Russia has appealed to the UK to issue visas to relatives of the Skripals so they can visit them in hospital.

The Kremlin also warned on Thursday that Britain is "playing with fire and will be sorry" over its response to the poisonings as the two countries traded jibes at the United Nations.

On Wednesday, Russia lost a vote at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague on its demand for its experts to be involved in testing samples of the substance used in the Salisbury attack.

Meanwhile, two guinea pigs were found dead at Mr Skripal's home after the property was sealed off for investigations. The UK department for environment, food and rural affairs added that a cat was also found in a distressed state at the house and a decision was taken to euthanise the pet.

Irish Independent

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